'"The Liberal government seem to have done a fine job of mismanaging things," said outgoing Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 52 Chair Dan Tilleman. "There seems to be a certain lack of ethics." Tilleman pointed at Prime Minister Paul Martin's former business interests in Canada Steamship Lines. Martin and CSL have been widely criticized for utilizing offshore tax havens.
"I'm not sure how that can be construed as in the best interests of Canada," said Tilleman.
Recent opinion polls showing a surge of support for the Conservatives, and the disintegration of the long heralded Liberal dominance seem to indicate that many Canadians share Tilleman's concerns. But criticism for one party does not necessarily equal support for another.
"The social safety net that is currently fractured would be further dismantled [if the Conservatives win]," said Tilleman, who also expressed serious concern for the Americanization of Canadian government under Conservative rule. "The NDP and Greens align more closely with my point of view. I like what Jack Layton has been saying but they do have a history-when they get into power-of not having good fiscal management and running up the debt."
Tilleman, who has recently resigned as Chair of AUPE Local 52 but remains on staff in the Faculty of Civil Engineering cited Education high on his list of priorities. He was hardly alone.
"Education is on the forefront of my mind," said Shawna Sadler, a grad student who works for Library support staff as an information specialist. "Our institutions are not structured properly. They're not meeting the needs of students."
Sadler pointed to the fact the approach of the three major parties to increasing education funding has been in the form of loan increases, scholarships and bursaries.
"None of them, including the NDP, said anything about increasing funding to the universities," she said. "By redirecting money away from the institutions and toward students, the government is telling the institutions they're not using government funding effectively."
Even if they apply, students don't find out if they are going to receive financial awards until well into the first term, making it impossible to plan finances based on these, said Sadler.
"Because of that, we're discouraging students from going into post-secondary education," she said. "We work at the [InfoCommons] desk and we see students come in completely exhausted. They're working a full time job and keeping up with their school."
"The only thing all three parties are doing is making it easier to accrue debt," said Sadler.
Perhaps not surprisingly, education stands out as a very common them among university support staff.
"Obviously post-secondary education is a primary concern," said Shirley Maki from the Faculty of Continuing Education, who expressed serious concern over the lack of increases in funding transferred from the federal government to the provinces for education. Maki was also troubled by the lack of research grants to research based institutions such as the University of Calgary.
Health care was also important to Maki, who is worried about privatization.
"I'd like to see more enforcement of the Canada Health Act so Ralph Klein can't continue to privatize our health care," she said.
Although she has decided which problems mean the most to her, a clear cut party affiliation is not nearly as evident.
"I'm not sure there is any one party out there that has given me the sense that they would be any more accountable than the others," Maki noted, though she has not been made cynical or apathetic by the apparent lack of choices available.
"I think voting is an obligation on the part of everyone," she said. "Get out and vote."